Rambling to the Elite Eight: From one great Loyola team to another

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ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Ben Richardson #14 of the Loyola Ramblers celebrates after defeating the Nevada Wolf Pack during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Loyola defeated Nevada 69-68. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

ATLANTA – It’s amazing how much a great team will have people taking a quick history lesson. That’s certainly been the case for those rooting for the Ramblers for the last 50 years or the last five weeks.

While Loyola has a proud basketball history, most of it is two generations removed. That’s typically not something which millennials are very interested in, considering the prevalent “what have you done for me lately” mentality. But with the Ramblers’ run to the Final Four, the past is very much present at this point.

For Loyola, that’s represented by the 1963 team, the only Division I Men’s Basketball NCAA Tournament championship squad. They’re run to the championship was ground-breaking for the integration of the sport and thrilling for those fans who witnessed it first hand.

From the “Game of Change” against Mississippi State to the their buzzer-beating win over Cincinnati in Louisville in the title game, there were so many reasons why that Ramblers’ team was memorable. While the may have heard about it in the past, it’s certainly come to the forefront for the players of the team as they approach their first Elite Eight game in 55 years.

“I mean, when you talk about having pride for your school, and tradition comes up in conversation, obviously, that’s something that — Loyola has the only championship in Illinois,” said guard Donte Ingram of the 1963 team. “A lot of people forget that. I mean, we take a lot of pride in that. That’s something that doesn’t go away ever, obviously. Yeah, we take a lot of pride in tradition, and our history is very important.”

Especially considering how it’s sandwiched in between their current run at a Final Four berth. Loyola beat Nevada in the Sweet 16 in Atlanta on March 22nd and will face Kansas State on March 24th. The day in the middle – March 23rd – was the 55th anniversary of the Ramblers’ title game win over Cincinnati.

On occasion, this team has even gotten to meet those from that famed 1963 team who pay a visit back to campus. They’re reminded them of what happened back then as the 2018 team tries to duplicate that history themselves.

“It’s great tradition. I know we always talk about — the ’63 team always comes in and always tries to talk to us and give us their support,” said guard Marques Townes. “They always joke around and say we’re better than them, that they have support for us. And we’re happy to talk to them, and we’re happy to have them along on this run. Like he said, it’s tradition, and we’re looking forward to the next challenge.”

With an appreciation of the past and the future at the same time.

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